What You Need to Know about Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Applications
Peer-to-peer (P2P) applications such as BearShare, Warez, Morpheus, BitTorrent, iMesh and KaZaA, make it easy for users to exchange files with each other over the Internet. While these programs are a good way of sharing information, they are not entirely harmless and can cause problems for your personal system as well as the university network.
This document provides the information you need to avoid inadvertently violating federal copyright law, degrading the performance of the university’s network, unknowingly sharing your personal data, or exposing your computer to malicious code or unacceptable use when using peer-to-peer applications.
Residence Life Cinema
If you are living in one of the university residence halls, you can access dozens of on-demand movies at no cost. The Residence Life Cinema service offers a variety of new movies and modern classics that you can stream instantly from your personal computer.
Since the Division of Housing and Food Service provides access to these movies locally, streaming these movies will not count against your weekly bandwidth allocation, and you will not have to question the legality of the media.
File-sharing applications make it easy for you to share music, videos, movies, software, text and other files. However, unless you have the explicit permission of the copyright owner to possess or distribute the material, you may be in violation of federal copyright law. It is best to assume that all material is copyrighted.
The university cannot protect you from a copyright complaint. In fact, we may be legally required to assist a complainant in pursuing action against you. The penalties can range from university sanctions to civil and criminal prosecution. Individual copyright owners and the entertainment industry are quite active in pursuing legal actions. You are not protected just because you received material at no cost or are distributing material with no charge. Your only protection is to not possess or distribute any unlicensed copyrighted material.
Most P2P applications you install will usually be configured so other users can access your hard drive and share your files all of the time. This constant file transfer can degrade your computer’s performance and generate heavy traffic loads on the University network, making it difficult for other users of the network to work well. The network is a shared resource and we all must use it responsibly.
UT network bandwidth consumption is monitored. If your usage could possibly impact the overall performance of the network, your computer may be blocked until the situation can be discussed.
Students living in university residence halls are limited in the amount of bandwidth they can use and having these applications running all the time can quickly use up their bandwidth quota.
Before you install any program on your computer, especially a P2P application, read that program’s documentation and disable, if possible, file-sharing access. For instructions on how to disable file sharing in popular P2P applications, read the help documents or visit the Web site of your P2P client.
If you are running a file-sharing application, make sure you know which files and data the program can access and provide to others. You may be inadvertently sharing personal information, such as e-mail messages and credit card information. A faculty member or graduate student may be unintentionally sharing confidential research data or a University staff member may be inadvertently sharing University business.
Virus writers are increasingly targeting file-sharing applications. If malicious code infects your computer, it can spread to millions of computers on the Internet. It is essential that you keep your anti-virus program up to date and install programs acquired only from reputable sources. You can download anti-virus software on the BevoWare site.
Some file-sharing applications also access your computer to provide a computational or storage resource for another organization’s personal use. This may not be an acceptable use of state-owned resources such as the UT network or UT-owned computers. Do not permit any such use of your system without the consent of the university. For assistance, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
University Policy and Assistance
In summary, please remember that file-sharing programs are not necessarily harmless and in using them you may inadvertently consume excessive network bandwidth, violate copyright law, inadvertently share confidential information or make your computer insecure. Disproportionate bandwidth usage and copyright infringement are violations of the university’s rules for acceptable use of information technology.